Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Online video and entrepreneurial journalism: a round up

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism, Online Video by Adam Westbrook on October 3, 2011

It’s time for another roundup of the most popular posts from this blog from the last quarter. I put these together every three months to put the most interesting stuff together in one place – and show up some posts which might be harder to find. 

Here are the summary posts from earlier this summer, and the spring, in case you want  delve deeper into this year’s archives.

Don’t forget – to make sure you never miss a new post, subscribe to the email newsletter on the right hand side of this screen. And you can keep track of me online on Twitter, Tumblr, Audioboo and Vimeo.

Online video

Six new ways to use online video: six ideas on how publishers, organisations and businesses can be more creative with video.

How a university took a risk with video – and it paid off  : a brilliant example of why being brave with video pays dividends for those with the foresight to do it.

Storytelling – the changing game: audiences are getting involved in the storytelling process – find out why that matters for journalists.

Reacting to a riot: the hard lessons I learned during the summer riots in London.

Lessons from the first ever novel for the first online video producers: what do novels, cinema, radio, television and now, online video, have in common? Find out here.

The value of making your journalism ‘finishable’ : the Economist prides itself on being ‘finishable’ – why doesn’t more journalism do the same?

Entrepreneurial Journalism

Lessons I’ve learned as a freelance journalist with a portfolio career : six tips on how to manage a busy portfolio of work and keep your head above the water.

10 myths which will stop you innovating in journalism: journalism needs innovators, but here’s why no-one dares tread on new ground.

Lessons from Monty Python for digital publishers: if Terry Gilliam were a 17 year old today he’d be a prolific online publisher – here’s why.

10 ways to make the most of your journalism course: starting a journalism course this autumn? Make sure you read this before you begin.

How to always have good ideas: ideas are the building blocks of journalism and publishing. But how do you stop yourself running out of them?

The age of the new media pioneer – and how you can become one: this is the most exciting time to be in journalism – but you have to make the most of it.

10 things you’ll hear at every journalism conference: a little bit of fun from me – the 10 cliches of every conference out there.

My call for transparency in journalism: it’s time for transparency in journalism – find out why.


What Monty Python can teach the next generation of publishers

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on August 22, 2011

If Terry Gilliam were a 20-year-old nobody today, I have little doubt he would be all over the internet, with a Youtube, Audioboo and Tumblr account, creating mashups, animations, films and the like.

He’d be one of the many people creating shareable stuff, probably using music without permission…and probably getting some of it taken down by Youtube!

Instead, he was lucky enough to be part of Monty Python in the 1960s and 70s, creating their instantly recognisable cut-out animations. I stumbled across this video recently, where Terry appears on what looks like a brilliant 70s children’s art show on the BBC, the likes of which just aren’t made any more.

After a rather odd title sequence which offers to teach you “something to your advantage” he explains how he produces his animations – and there’s lots for the new generation of digital publishers to learn.

It’s all about the idea and the message

Very early on in the video, Terry says “the whole point of animation is to tell a story, tell a joke, express an idea. The technique itself doesn’t really matter, whatever works is the thing to use.”

Terry is not animating for animation’s sake, nor his own vanity. Each time, he has a story or a joke to tell, or an idea to share. The takeaway: make sure your own work, whether it is making a documentary, writing a blog or launching a podcast is more than just for the sake of it – you must have a meaning you want to express, somehow.

Everything is a remix

In a sequence that might shock many of us today, especially those versed in copyright,  Terry confesses – well, he really just states – to using whatever he can find to create is now famous collages. He steals from magazines, books, paintings-  literally whatever he can get his hands on. He says he loves old photographs because the faces are so expressive.

This is – I think – a wonderful attitude to have to creating content, and one that, luckily, enough amateur online publishers still have. Obviously, there are (often crossed) legal boundaries, but without their willingness to use other peoples’ content we wouldn’t have Newport State of Mind, these great Brian Cox spoofs, nor much of the expanded Star Wars expanded universe, now a big industry.

Use whatever you can

Terry uses felt-tip pens, sellotape and perspex to get the job done. Not very glamorous but it did the trick. He doesn’t invest in expensive paper, or professional ink he just uses what’s cheap. If you want to create multimedia stories – video, audio slideshows, photographs and the like – you don’t need to blow £2k on the priciest camera, when a Flipcam will do the job for you. People take extraordinary pictures with their iPhones too: Richard Koci Hernandez creates wonderful images on his phone.

Work quick

Wherever Terry could save time he did – even to the extent of replacing legs with wheels. In the surreal Monty Python universe that worked, but there are lessons for young publishers too: don’t fret about creating perfection. Instead create a quantity of work – the more you make, the better you become.

If so, create a platform or a vehicle which forces you to create content regularly. I’m currently collaborating with Dave Lee to launch a new video magazine later this year: it’s a platform which demands new stories on a regular basis – and I’m shooting and editing far more often because of it.

So there you go: even an old bit of BBC archive floating on Youtube holds lessons for new digital producers in the 21st century. Work fast, with whatever you can find, remix (within reason) and above all: do it to tell a story, make a point or express some kind of meaning.